I served as a pastor for 33 years and then worked nearly six years as a counselor at the most high-profile maximum-security prison in Texas. There, I ran the mental health department, nestled in the prison infirmary, which serves all the offenders and, in emergencies, staff and correctional staff.
Looking back, I can say there is nothing in the Texas criminal justice system or the Texas Department of Criminal Justice that is right, meets the standards of “not cruel or unusual punishment,” nor is fundamentally rooted in any kind of human compassion or hope that an offender can become a productive part of society again.
The situation in Texas is representative of the larger problem with criminal justice in America, which is built on a foundation of retribution and not reformation or restitution.
Three significant populations in Texas prisons are those associated with substance abuse or trafficking in illegal substances, sex offenders, and gangs. According to American Correctional Association, TDCJ had sex offender treatment programs, a substance abuse treatment program and a gang renunciation program. Actually, such programs did exist but were really “window dressing,” meaning they were so small that a person could serve their time in prison and never have a chance to go through one of the programs.